Eamonn Farrell/

Call for change in language requirements for garda recruits with dyslexia

Learning additional languages is often very challenging for students with dyslexia.

THERE HAVE BEEN fresh calls for a change in An Garda Síochána’s entry requirements to allow prospective recruits with dyslexia join the force with just one language.

Earlier this month the Department of Education updated the criteria for exemptions from learning Irish in schools. 

Students who apply for an exemption to study Irish due to a learning disability will no longer have to provide evidence from a psychologist, nor test under a certain IQ level. Previously, a two to three hour psychological assessment and report was required for people applying for an exemption from the subject. 

The Dyslexia Association of Ireland (DAI), which had long campaigned for this change, welcomed the move and said it would make a huge positive impact to young people’s lives.

Another call the organisation has been making for years relates to the language requirements for garda recruits. Entrants must have two languages, one of which must be either English or Irish. Recruits are also required to take Irish language classes in the garda college in Templemore. 

CEO of DAI Rosie Bissett said removing the second language requirement for all students would be the most sensible and equitable option.

However she said An Garda Síochána could also introduce a special exemption specifically for students with dyslexia and related learning disabilities.

“This could be done by simply applying the National University of Ireland matriculation requirement exemptions as is done by the Defence Forces,” she said.

DAI made a submission to the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland about the issue, explaining that dyslexia primarily affects the acquisition of literacy skills. 

“Learning additional languages is often very challenging for students with dyslexia, especially at school while they are still struggling with their first language,” the association said. 

This is why the Department of Education and Skills makes exemption from Irish available to students with significant dyslexia. In the same way, third level colleges, including the NUI, grant students with dyslexia (and other learning difficulties) exemptions from additional language requirements. 

DAI said these exemptions have been critical in enabling students with dyslexia to enter third level education and a range of professions which were previously denied to them. The association said the language requirements for An Garda Síochána “effectively barred” entry for many individuals with dyslexia. 

People with dyslexia often have a wide range of strengths in other areas such as inter-personal skills, problem solving skills, and also develop great determination and resilience in the course of learning to manage their own dyslexia and learning. Many would make truly excellent candidates, and these talented individuals are currently being discriminated against.

In response to a query from, An Garda Síochána pointed out that the Official Language Act 2003 requires public bodies named in that act to provide services to the public through Irish.

“All public bodies have a statutory duty to comply with regulations made by the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht,” a spokesperson said. 

However he added that additional means of recruiting garda members and managers will be examined in line with recommendations of the Commission on the Future of Policing.

The Department of Justice also referenced the commission’s recommendations, which included proposals in relation to entry routes into the organisation and the education of recruits. The commission’s final report did not make any specific recommendations in relation to language requirements or entrants with a learning disability. 

“An expert group is being established to take this work forward,” a department spokesperson said. “It will also look at current educational requirements for joining An Garda Síochána.”

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